|“Grace” by Eric Enstrom|
There’s this old story about a hunter who found himself cornered by a hungry lion in a forest. Desperate to stay alive, he fell on his knees and, hoping the lion would leave him alone, yelled, “Oh God, please make this lion into a Christian!” The lion then stopped, fell on its knees, and said, “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these your gifts…”
Grace, as a recap, is a type of prayer or saying before and after meals. This is a tradition taught at home and practiced by oneself or with others, especially among the predominantly Catholic Filipinos. It is both a spiritual and social custom that uses food to bond with others.
Saying grace is one of the most well-known practices of Christianity. Then again, major religions such as Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism also have prayers for meals. Humanists and other secular groups also say some form of pre-meal saying. (“Itadakimasu,” anyone?) No matter what belief system it is, saying grace is important.
Eating is a spiritual activity, and grace embodies this spirituality. When we say grace, we show gratitude for the provision of food. We offer our gratitude to a higher power (Yahweh, Allah, Brahma, or other deities) or authority (the people who provided the food, for the non-believers) for giving us something that keeps our bodies alive.
When we say grace, we also ask for God’s blessing to sanctify our food. This is another spiritual aspect of eating, where we ask God for His blessings through the nourishment we will get from what we eat. We also acknowledge that the food we are having is, in itself, God’s blessing.
Most belief systems regard grace as the acknowledgement of human dominion over the earth. This means we thank God for giving us the right and ability to sacrifice the lives of other creatures for our benefit. We basically proclaim and show gratitude for being at the top of the food chain.
This also means acknowledging the sacrifice of others for the sake of sustenance. We express our gratitude to the rice grains steaming in our rice cookers, the vegetables on our plate, and the animals killed and cooked to become the dishes served to us. We recognize that the plant or animal has given its life for us, and it will return to the earth to to the same for others.
We also express our gratitude to the people involved in the procurement of food. We recognize the work of the butchers who killed these animals, the ones who harvest the plants, the vendors, the delivery men, the chefs and the servers, even our parents and loved ones who are part of the reason we’re having food to eat in the first place.
Saying grace gives eating a spiritual aspect, in which we give thanks for the food we eat, and for the sustenance given to us. It goes without saying that we also offer our prayers for the time we spend on eating, be it with others as a form of bonding, or for ourselves as a time of rest. Most of all, we say grace to acknowledge, give thanks and praise to God for making all of this possible.
Bless this meal, oh Lord, and while I’m at it, I thank You and all the lives involved in feeding me.